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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Listed best first, IMO
(your mileage may vary).

Rolling Stock RTR
... FREIGHT CARS:
Arrowhead
Rapido
Moloco
ScaleTrains/RivetCounter
Tangent
MTH
Kadee
Atlas Master
Athearn Genesis
Walthers Proto
InterMountain
Red Caboose
ExactRail Signature
ExactRail Platinum
Centralia (cabooses)
Bluford (xfer cabooses)
Athearn RTR
ScaleTrains/Operator
Walthers Mainline
Bowser/Stewart
Bowser Executive
AccuReady
ExactRail Express
Atlas Trainman

... PASSENGER CARS:
Rapido
MTH
BLI
Con-Cor Branchline BCS
Walthers Proto
InterMountain
Rivarossi heavyweights
Walthers Mainline
Bachmann Silver heavyweights

Rolling Stock KITS
Red Caboose
InterMountain
Tichy
Accurail
Proto 2000
A.M.B.
Funaro
Branchline
Train Miniature
Roundhouse
Athearn BB

Locomotives
Rapido
ScaleTrains/RivetCounter
Athearn Genesis
Atlas Gold
BLI
InterMountain
Walthers Proto
Athearn RTR
ScaleTrains/Operator
Atlas Silver
Walthers Mainline
Bowser
* MTH
Bachmann
Atlas Classic
* Sorry, but every MTH locomotive I've ever owned was a problem.

Structure kits
ITLA
FOS
B.T.S.
Summit
Bar Mills
Builders In Scale
Laserkit
Walthers Cornerstone
BLMA
DPM
Blair Line
Faller
Woodland Scenics
Walthers Trainline

Couplers
Kadee
ProtoMax
McDonald-Cartier (Rapido).

Detail parts
Tichy
Detail Associates
BLMA
Cannon
Walthers
Grandt Line
Blair Line
Central Valley
Bowser
Moloco
Details West
CalScale

Metal wheelsets
InterMountain
Kadee
Tangent
Rapido
Walthers Proto
ExactRail
Atlas
Athearn

Intermodal/Containers
Walthers
Athearn
ScaleTrains
InterMountain
Atlas
Kato

Airbrushes
Harder & Steenbeck
Badger
Iwata
Paasche
Master
__

Not listed:
Esoteric wheelsets & couplers
Vehicles
Scenery items
Figures
Trackage
Electric & DCC components
Glues & Adhesives
Tools
Paints-Brushes-Cleaners-Accessories
Publications
Suppliers & Vendors
 

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Your lists definately point out that there are a huge number of manufacturers making model railroad products.....doesn’t look like a dying hobby to me! :)
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
I added BLMA & Faller to 'Structure kits' (by edit).
 

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Discussion Starter #4
One category I neglected to list is Bridges.

Central Valley
Walthers
Atlas
Rix
ExactRail

Central Valley offers the most detailed bridges in kit form... hands down. They're definitely not easy to assemble, but are by far the most authentic and realistic.

Walthers offers what (IMO) are second best, with a multitude of types.
Atlas is also good.
Rix has a few good ones, especially a nice pedestrian bridge.
ExactRail has the finest plate girder bridge available... and it's RTR!
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
Signal bridges

Alkem
BLMA
Walthers
Atlas
NJ International
Bachmann

Alkem makes the best signal bridge kits... hands down. But they're all brass, and require soldering skills.
BLMA signal bridges are easily second best.
Walthers offers superb 2 & 4-track bridges.
Atlas bridges and cantilevers are excellent. They're available with their Signal Control System included, which is gaining in popularity. Not a cheap package, but very cool.
NJ International offers inexpensive kits without heads.
Bachmann's 2-track kits can easily be combined for multiple track widths.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Coincidentally, I just bought this ...
Just a random purchase.
All I can say is...
Lotsa' luck.
CV's are superb kits, but beyond many modeler's abilities... certainly mine.
 

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Hooray, Tichy made it to the top of a list! They're always the first place I look when I need a detail item.

I did receive an email from them recently saying they were raising their prices a bit (I think the $3.50 items were going up to $4.00). Unfortunate for us, but understandable.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Hooray, Tichy made it to the top of a list! They're always the first place I look when I need a detail item.
For structure parts there's no comparison. Superbly detailed stuff.
Their kits are a bit difficult for me, but very rewarding.
They also have superb reefer decals.
Plus the only affordable archbar truckframes.
In all the Tichy parts I've bought, (hundreds) I've never come across a bad casting.
 

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Coincidentally, I just bought this ...


Just a random purchase.
I recently finished building this kit. It was a LOT of work!
My progress is interspersed throughout my build thread here:

It starts with post #292. Do you have a miter saw? Not a hobby miter box, but a power miter saw, or know someone who does? If so, it would be very beneficial to you to build a jig to cut the top bridge girders. They are some odd angles, but it can be done. I explain how here:
The kit makes a very nice bridge, but it is a lot of work. The diagonals on the side of the bridge are not all the same length, so make sure you get the right one in the right spot. They are also very fragile (maybe they come from Italy) so be gentle with them. It would be helpful to watch the video series I reference in the first post. Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter #13
FWIW, I stand fast and firm with the top three I've listed in every category.
My advice is, if you can afford any of those... buy them!
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Scratchbuilding shapes & materials

PLASTIC & METAL:
Plastruct (styrene)
Evergreen (styrene)
K&S (brass, copper, aluminum)
KitCraft (ABS plastic, clear acrylics)
RJ Speed (clear Lexan, Mylar, Acetate)

WOOD:
Northeastern Scale Lumber
Midwest Supply
DaVinci Art Supply
(Bud Nosen basswood)
KitCraft
 

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Discussion Starter #15 (Edited)
FWIW, Bud Nosen (mentioned above) is mostly noted for outstanding wood kits, particularly WWII aircraft.
But the company also offers about the finest level of milled balsa, basswood, birch, and model plywood, in sheets, blocks, strips, and dowels.
The sheet and strip milling is so precise, (with 'razor sharp' corners) that edge-joints are nearly invisible.
A bit expensive, but if you can find it, you'll be very happy with it.
Some craft stores and art supply houses have it. Michaels may still carry it, although I haven't seen it there for a while.
Some FOS kits employ Bud Nosen basswood.
 

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Not listed:
Esoteric wheelsets & couplers
Vehicles
Scenery items
Figures
Trackage
Electric & DCC components
Glues & Adhesives
Tools
Paints-Brushes-Cleaners-Accessories
Publications
Suppliers & Vendors
And top of the line European equipment, structures, and accessories.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Sound

I neglected to include DCC components, because I'm only familiar with a couple brands.
But where sound is concerned, I do have a strong opinion.

Realizing that fidelity is largely dependent on speaker size and quality, I've learned that the best (most realistic) prime mover sound comes from my locomotives equipped with ESU Loksound.
This includes the bashed locomotives I've done, especially the GE units with Cummins diesel engines. Goosebumps!
SoundTraxx Tsunami (IMO) is also very good.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
These GE diesels, with Cummins prime movers, are equipped with ESU Loksound.
The richness of Cummins' fidelity (especially at startup & idle) are astounding.
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IMG_8689.jpg
 

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ESU spares no expense at recording and processing the actual locomotive sounds loaded into their DCC Loksound decoders.

I saw a video somewhere of them recording sound samples of a Euro locomotive. Very impressive equipment.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Vehicle kits

In the 'Kits' category, I neglected to list an important company, because it lies within the vehicle genre.

Sylvan kits are superb renditions of cars and trucks of nearly all eras and types.
Their parts are resin castings.

In most cases, the castings clean up fairly easily, but some kits that are produced near the end of a run (with worn tooling) may be riddled with flash, and will take extra time to make paint-ready.
The kits are accurate reproductions of the real thing, and the assembled models have positionable ('posable') front wheels.

The kit boxes are very small, (smaller than a cigarette pack) but are full of all the parts needed to make outstanding models.
A driver is included in each kit.

Paint as you see fit, but I recommend a good primer, since resin doesn't hold finish coats well.

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